The Top 10 Sandwich Franchises

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Sandwiches are big business. The top 10 sandwich franchises from Entrepreneur‘s Franchise 500 ranking, all rest comfortably in the top 200.The franchises that made the cut are serving healthier meal options at a prices today’s consumer can stomach ($5 Footlong sound familiar?).

As the quick-service industry continues to move toward convenience, variety and nutrition, sandwich franchises (both big and small) are stepping up to the plate.

Learn the recipe to success from these top sandwich franchises >
This post originally appeared at Entrepreneur.

10. Which Wich Superios Sandwiches

Number of franchises: 110

Franchising since: 2004

Startup costs: $185,900 - $423,300

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 188

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 263

Searching for a sandwich shop with edge? Look no further than Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. Founder Jeff Sinelli created Which Wich with a simple goal: To create a fresh, innovative concept featuring superior sandwiches served in an edgy, attractive environment.

The ordering concept is also unique: Guests use red Sharpies to mark up pre-printed menus on sandwich bags, which are returned to them with their custom sandwich inside. With more than 50 varieties of customisable 'wiches,' Which Wich offers a money-back guarantee if customers aren't satisfied.

9. Togo's Franchisor LLC

Number of franchises: 238

Franchising since: 1977

Startup costs: $256,700 - $417,300

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 177

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 457

Just like Charley's Grilled Subs, Togo's got its start on a college campus, when student Mike Cobler bought a small sandwich shack in San Jose, Calif. He made his sandwiches big, made-to-order and packed with fresh ingredients -- just the way he likes them.

40 years later, Togo's prides itself on made-to-order specialty sandwiches, soups and salads. The menu recently expanded to include four new toasted sandwiches, including The Clubhouse, chilli Cheese 'N' Beef, Pepper Jack Pastrami and Uncle Tony's Italian.

8. Extreme Pita

Number of franchises: 224

Franchising since: 1998

Startup costs: $156,500 - $371,960

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 176

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 234

Extreme Pita is the brainchild of two brothers with a dream: to create an innovative, made-to-order product loaded with nutrition, variety and zest. The result? A franchise offering convenience, speed and plenty of flavour, all thanks to the power of the pita.

Offering diverse menu items such as pita wrap sandwiches (paired with a choice of 21 dressings), flat-baked pita pizzas, smoothies and salads, it's fair to say Extreme Pita has made the founders' dream become reality.

7. Penn Station East Coast Subs

Number of franchises: 213

Franchising since: 1987

Startup costs: $255,900 - $451,700

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 141

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 183

Penn Station East Coast Subs prides itself on being unlike most quick-service restaurants, due in part to its fresh ingredients and display cooking set-up, which allows every sandwich to be made in full customer view. The menu began with only four sandwiches, including the grilled cheesesteak.

That classic sub remains in good company with other grilled submarine sandwiches, including a create-your-own option. Penn Station recently announced a management shakeup at its corporate office in Milford, Ohio, naming new directors of sales and operations with the aim of bringing in new ideas.

6. Arby's

Number of franchises: 2,529

Franchising since: 1965

Startup costs: $365,000 - $2,400,000

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 132

2010 Franchise 500 rank: Not ranked

When the first Arby's restaurant opened in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964, the menu was simple, consisting of roast-beef sandwiches, potato chips and iced tea. Over the years, the franchise has diversified by adding market-fresh sandwiches, wraps, salads, curly fries, milkshakes, kid's meals and, recently, breakfast.

For example, the franchise recently introduced its Outside-In Cinnamon Bites (bite-sized pastries with cinnamon and cream cheese filling) for a limited time. Despite the varied menu, Arby's has lost ground in Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 rankings, dropping to 132 in 2011 from No. 18 in 2009.

5. Pita Pit Inc.

Number of franchises: 295

Franchising since: 1997

Startup costs: $192,600 - $318,600

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 124

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 160

Consumers are becoming more health conscious and aware of nutrition information and calorie counts, which can make Pita Pit an attractive fast-food alternative.

This franchise offers Lebanese-style pitas filled with leaner meats, cheeses, fresh veggies and creative toppings and sauces, from a spicy vinaigrette Secret Sauce to Ancho Chipotle. Pita Pit's on-the-go, healthier meal options range from kid's pitas to breakfast pitas and salads and soups.

4. Firehouse Subs

Number of franchises: 360

Franchising since: 1995

Startup costs: $187,500 - $412,700

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 113

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 113

Call Firehouse Subs one hot franchise. Founded in 1994 by former firefighting brothers, Chris and Robin Sorensen, this fast-casual restaurant chain serves up large portions of hand-sliced, steamed meats at value pricing.

Firehouse Subs also has heart, as evidenced by their Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation supporting local communities. Its goal: To provide fire departments, law enforcement and emergency medical services with the tools, technology and training they need.

2. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops

Number of franchises: 1,150

Franchising since: 1993

Startup costs: $305,500 - $460,500

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 38

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No. 61

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich Shops know how to cater to the customer, offering online ordering, delivery, speedy service and quality ingredients.

It all began in 1983, when James J. Liautaud started his business in Charleston, Ill.,with a used refrigerator, meat slicer, oven and chest freezer. Since its humble beginnings, the company has evolved into a fast-growing franchise operation.

1. Subway

Number of franchises: 34,134

Franchising since: 1974

Startup costs: $84,300 - $258,300

2011 Franchise 500 rank: No. 9

2010 Franchise 500 rank: No.1

Subway is still leading the way in the sandwich industry. The submarine sandwich whiz unseated McDonald's to become the fast-food chain with the most outlets worldwide. In 2010, Subway introduced a line of breakfast sandwiches, which boosted per-unit averages.

Subway plans to add drive-through service and more big-box retail locations. The system had been Entrepreneur's No. 1 ranked franchise for 17 of the past 23 years. It's also ranked No. 3 on Entrepreneur's Fastest-Growing Franchise list in 2011.

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